High-resolution seismic-reflection and seismic-refraction imaging, combined with existing borehole, earthquake, and paleoseismic trenching data, suggest that the Santa Monica fault zone in Los Angeles consists of multiple strands from several kilometers depth to the near surface. We interpret our seismic data as showing two shallow-depth low-angle fault strands and multiple near-vertical (∼85°) faults in the upper 100 m. One of the low-angle faults dips northward at about 28° and approaches the surface at the base of a topographic scarp on the grounds of the Wadsworth VA Hospital (WVAH). The other principal low-angle fault dips northward at about 20° and projects toward the surface about 200 m south of the topographic scarp, near the northernmost areas of the Los Angeles Basin that experienced strong shaking during the 1994 Northridge earthquake. The 20° north-dipping low-angle fault is also apparent on a previously published seismic-reflection image by Pratt et al. (1998) and appears to extend northward to at least Wilshire Boulevard, where the fault may be about 450 m below the surface. Slip rates determined at the WVAH site could be significantly underestimated if it is assumed that slip occurs only on a single strand of the Santa Monica fault or if it is assumed that the near-surface faults dip at angles greater than 20–28°. At the WVAH, tomographic velocity modeling shows a significant decrease in velocity across near-surface strands of the Santa Monica fault. P-wave velocities range from about 500 m/sec at the surface to about 4500 m/sec within the upper 50 m on the north side of the fault zone at WVAH, but maximum measured velocities on the south side of the low-angle fault zone at WVAH are about 3500 m/sec. These refraction velocities compare favorably with velocities measured in nearby boreholes by Gibbs et al. (2000). This study illustrates the utility of combined seismic-reflection and seismic-refraction methods, which allow more accurate reflection imaging and compositional estimations across areas with highly variable velocities, a property that is characteristic of most fault zones.

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